Road Trip! Destination: New York's Finger Lakes region
New York State's Finger Lakes wine country is a region of small towns, big lakes and more than 100 wineries centered around Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Canandaigua lakes.
Located 329 miles and just about five hours from Pittsburgh, the area is a great place for a winter weekend getaway with opportunities to explore snowy pursuits, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along with visits to wineries that are waiting to welcome you.
With their vineyards in hibernation and customers at a minimum, owners, winemakers and vineyard managers have more time to answer your questions about what to drink, what's new or how to stock your wine cellar.
Most wineries stay open year round, opening between 10 and 11 a.m. and closing around 5 p.m. daily, including Sundays. But if you have your heart and your palate set on a particular winery, it's good to check first. Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee and Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan are two of the vineyards that offer tours year round.
A variety of wines are available for tasting and purchasing. So, it might be best to focus your journey on one or two. The online wineries database makes it easy to narrow your choices by wine type, region, days of operation and additional amenities.
A good source for planning information is the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association in Corning. Details: 800-813-2958 or fingerlakeswinecountry.com
Many consider winter in the Finger Lakes as the off season. That means hotels and motels, as well as bed-and-breakfasts and inns, make an extra effort to attract guests. Through March 31, when you book a Winter in Wine Country package, you receive discounted rates or free nights with participating accommodations and Palate Passport at check-in. The Passport is your ticket to discounts, deals and experiences from area attractions, wineries, shops and restaurants. Details: 800-813-2958 or fingerlakeswinecountry.com
The largest and most active wine trail in New York state is the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, a community of 34 wineries, a distillery, two breweries and a meadery. To organize your journey on the wine trail, consider purchasing a Polar Passport.
Valid through March 31, the booklet enables visitors to enjoy a complimentary, one-time, standard flight of wine samples at more than 26 member wineries. Also included are a map of the wine trail around Seneca Lake and the location of participants along with a chart displaying days and hours they are open.
Polar Passports can be purchased online in advance of your trip or at many of the participating wineries. Details: 877-536-2717 or senecalakewine.com
Tanglewood Nature Center & Museum, 443 Coleman Ave., in Elmira offers 9 miles of scenic trails for winter activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Snowshoe rentals are available inside the 12,000-square-foot nature museum. The museum is home to dozens of species of live animals native to the area in addition to interactive exhibits and a comfortable library for bird-watching and reading. Details: 607-732-6060 or tanglewoodnaturecenter.com
Shake off the chill with a cooking class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center, 800 S. Main St., Canandaigua. The center's calendar is packed with two-hour, hands-on workshops for making pizza or pasta, bread-making and sauteing, as well as how to pair wine with seasonal dishes such as creamed Swiss chard appetizers or dark chocolate mousse.
If you'd rather watch than chop, sign up for Chef's Table of Lunch and Learn sessions where a chef-led cooking demo is followed by the opportunity to consume the items prepared. Details: 585-394-7070 or nywcc.com/classesandhappenings
The Finger Lakes' claim to fame may be its wine country. But it's also home to craft-brewers such as the Wagner Valley Brewing Co., 9322 State Route 414, in Lodi. Established in 1997 as part of Wagner Vineyards, Wagner Valley Brewing Co. operates like a traditional German-style brew house.
The company follows the German Purity Law of 1516, using only malt, hops, yeast and water in its beers. Visitors to the tasting room can enjoy a tasting of six handcrafted ales and lagers. Fitting seasonal or specialty offerings include Sled Dog Doppelbock, Gold Rush and Amber Lager. Details: 866-924-6378 or wagnerbrewing.com
Watkins Glen State Park is known for its enchanting scenery that wows visitors year-round. Within two miles, the glen's stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. Be sure to bring your camera, as the waterfalls have a special appeal when they turn to ice. Details: 607-535-4511 or parks.ny.gov/parks/142/details.aspx
Sooner or later, even the biggest snow and ice fan needs to thaw out. Just about the best place to do that is the Corning Museum of Glass, home to the largest glass collection in the world. The museum showcases some 45,000 objects that cover 3,500 years of glassmaking history, from a tiny portrait of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh to fanciful modern-day sculptures.
Count on warming up while watching flameworking demos as artists shape objects with a 5,000 degree Fahrenheit gas- and oxygen-powered torch. Or, interact with the artists in a make-your-own glass experience. Details: 800-732-6845 or cmog.org